On Tuesday I whined to my husband about bills, debt and spending.
Yesterday I vowed I wouldn’t do any more spending until Christmas gift shopping.
Today I bought a present for the birthday party my son was invited to this weekend. #FMeL (the e is for entire)
This is the time of year that people spend the most money. From Halloween to New Year’s day we have so many purchase-inducing holidays. Then there are the other purchases for birthdays, showers, weddings. Ugh. We can’t get around gifting. (I mean, you can if you’re a scrooge mcduck, but gifting is fun!!) We can, however, avoid spending outside of the “necessary” gifting. (and we can get creative about the gifts we give, in some cases, to avoid spending.)
I’ve decided to create a No Spend Challenge for myself and share with you in case you also enjoy not being broke. 🙂 This can be done at ANY time of the year. Not just around holiday season. (Note: it’s usually best to do it during times where you won’t be pressured to spend, but we’re going wild around here!)
With a no spend challenge, the goal is to not only curb your spending to save a bit of cash… but also to be more mindful of how you’re using your money going forward.
HOW TO CREATE A NO SPEND CHALLENGE
- Choose an amount of time to commit to the challenge
- Spend no money outside of necessities (mortgage/rent, bills, food, transportation, etc.)
- Make a plan for the money that you save
Bonus: Repeat challenge as necessary
Note: If attempting the challenge during holiday season, set a predetermined amount of money aside as a “Gift Bill” and add it to your list of necessities.
Step One: Choose your time period
Most no-spend challenges run for a month. I’m on team “know yourself and do you”… so if you know a month is too hard a challenge to start with, then try 21 days, 14 days, a week or even a day! Now, I know it can be enticing to think big…but please don’t set yourself up to fail and say you’re not going to spend a penny for the next quarter/year etc. Even if that’s your end goal, try at most a month at a time. Even one day of avoiding unecessary spending is valuable. #everypennycounts
Step Two: Spend no money
Yeah…so this is the whole “no spend” part of things. This is personal to everyone. For most challenges it means not to spend outside of necessities which means you’ll have to at least loosely deal with “the B word.” (Yes, I mean budget….but we can call it a spending plan if that makes you less grumpy.)
Write down all your monthly expenses. ALL of them. Including your daily latte, mani/pedis, and of course including the biggies like utilities, rent, child care, etc. I use a google sheet or excel sheet so I can log what it is and how much I spend on each.
Decide how “no spend” your challenge will be. This is where it gets personal. For me, hair appointments are not a necessity because I’m good at doing my own hair. But if you earn a living as an on-air newscaster and you have no idea how to style your hair…you should probably keep that on the spend list. Feel me?
So figure out exactly what you’ll spend on, and vow to leave the rest alone. You can go as strict as humanly possible, or loose like “no spend on fast food” or something similar depending on your lifestyle.
Step 3: Plan for your savings
With all the spending you’re not doing, your bank accounts will be nice and plump. What are you going to do with the funds you saved? Before you start your challenge, make a plan for those coins! Will you pay off a looming debt? Put it to a rainy day savings account? Save for a specific goal like future travel? Make the plan, and make it compelling enough to keep you motivated to continue your no spend challenge.
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL NO SPEND CHALLENGE
You are going to have to be creative in how you live your life when you’re not spending on the little things you normally would. Forgoing your morning Starbucks run means brewing coffee at home or drinking what’s at the office. Skipping your mani pedis or hair appointments means you’ll be adding at-home pampering time to your weekend routine. Be prepared for the life changes ahead and plan accordingly. Mentally go through your day or week and figure out what your free alternatives will be.
Read personal finance books
Stay motivated to keep up with your “fiscal fast” by reading books that teach you about managing money. If you have financial freedom and managing money top of mind, it’ll be easier to continue your challenge.
Have a buddy
With any challenge, it’s more fun to do it with someone else. Enlist a friend, sibling or your spouse to join you on this personal quest. If it turns out to be a miserable experience for you (it won’t I swear!) at least you have someone to commiserate with about the ordeal.
Create a diversion
Keep your mind off of your non-spending by figuring out some time consuming activities that don’t require you to spend one red cent.
- learn to cook a new meal
- start a workout habit (use what you have, or use your bodyweight)
- return to an old hobby (that you already have the tools/equipment for)
- visit the library and read some great books
- bingewatch Prison Break? (or something better)
- declutter your home room by room (bonus if you can sell some of what you want to get rid of)
- volunteer somewhere locally
- have a walking ‘date’ with a friend
- Do that ‘someday’ project: Like organizing your photos
- Write the next great American novel
Have fun with it
Are you a competitive person? Challenge your partner to see who can save more money over the time period. Find unique ways to trim from your budget. Or create a game for yourself with mini challenges on how you’ll save each day. You can also make a game of finding ways to EARN money during your no spend challenge. (Like selling some of your clutter on Ebay.com)
Notice your Mindset & Money shifts
You may realize you enjoy doing your nails at home on thursday nights while watching #TGIT and decide to keep it up after the challenge. (why I keep going to this mani pedi example is beyond me.) Maybe you will lose some weight packing your lunches from home instead of eating out for breakfast and lunch at work and want to keep the progress going. Notice the ways your views of money is changing during the challenge. (THIS is a great book to read on your relationship to money.)
If you’re on a diet you’re not going to hang out in the food court, amirite? It’ll just trigger you to eat. So with your no spend challenge you’ll have to avoid the places that trigger you to spend. Block Amazon.com on your browser. Drive a different route home if you’re used to popping into target on the way home. etc.
What to do when the Challenge is over
- Put your saved funds to your predesignated place
- Reassess what you’ll return to spending on and what you’ll cut out of your life forever
- Feel super proud of yourself
- Plan for your next challenge
But, what if I fail?
First off… what is failing? Not completing the challenge isn’t a failure. Even if you avoid your unnecessary spending for just one single day, that’s a win! It’s impossible to fail.
No Spend Challenges are a great way to save a bit of cash for specific needs, or a general savings goal. They are also excellent as a way to jumpstart a new less spendy lifestyle. You can learn a lot about your spending habits and the way you want to use your money through these challenges. There’s no right or wrong. It’s just personal financial choices.
For my challenge, I am vowing to spend no money for the month of November outside of bills and necessary items (like that gift I mentioned earlier). I know I can do it!
And so can you!!
You have all you need to create your own no spend challenge. So go forth and save!!
(Let me know how long you last!!!)